The Chauncey Street Monster
by Dr. Kirt Gonzales
LitFire Publishing

"Domestic violence knows no race, age, cultural background, economic class, educational level, or even gender. It is an epidemic . . ."

In September of 2013, Gonzales’ sister, Sellis, was savagely shot to death by the father of one of her baby girls, Eric McCormick, in an episode that garnered national media attention. Even before the gruesome murder, the perpetrator had committed years of domestic violence and abuse against Gonzales’ sister, as chronicled in this book. Unfortunately, as cycles of domestic abuse often (though not always) repeat from one generation to the next, Gonzales himself, as a young boy born in Trinidad, was witness to his mother being beaten and slapped by his stepfather. What began as violence against the young boy whenever his mom was out of the house, culminated into full-blown beatings and cruel mistreatment of the young author himself.

In this insightful and important work of nonfiction, Gonzales excels at highlighting two interwoven phenomena. First, his book is a study on domestic violence in general. Second, it tells the horrific story of this form of abuse in his family while growing up and against his baby sister specifically (when they are adults), as perpetuated by Eric, known as the Chauncey Street Monster. “Abuse is not only physical,” writes Gonzales, “but also verbal, mental, emotional, sexual, and even spiritual.” He goes on to make the case that globally and more so with each passing decade, domestic abuse and violence have reached epidemic proportions, leaving (mostly) women to “cry in silence [and] hide with embarrassment. Children live with deep wounded scars. Families are torn apart.”

The author provides statistics about domestic violence, information about different kinds of domestic abuse, and a helpful list of potential warning signs. He cites psychologist Lenore Walker’s three-phase cycle as that which normally occurs. This begins with the tension-building phase, where tension builds over issues like money, children, or jobs, and verbal abuse may begin. The victim might try to appease the abuser and/or avoid the abuse. Eventually, as things boil over, it can lead to physical abuse. The acute battering phase includes episodes of physical violence when almost anything (including the abuser’s emotional state) can set off such violence. Finally, during the honeymoon phase, the abuser may express remorse, minimize the abuse, or even blame it on his partner. Apologies and generosity may ensue as the abuser tries to convince the victim he will not abuse again. Hence, the victim is falsely led to believe that leaving the relationship is not necessary.

Gonzales, in whose sister’s case such domestic violence led in fact to brutal, cold-blooded murder, also talks at length about the process of grieving such a loss. He writes eloquently about denial, followed by bargaining, then depression, anger, and, finally, acceptance. The author cautions, however, that the grieving process and period lengths can be very different from person to person. The author admits he had to muster up all of the different counseling techniques he uses with his own clients in the church on himself in dealing with the grief and anger over what happened to his sister Sellis.

What is significant about Gonzales’ book is its blunt putting of the truth out there—cold, hard, and ugly—for a general readership about the epidemic of domestic violence, its high rates, and its effects on families and affected individuals. If awareness and frank discussion around the issues of domestic violence are needed to finally see a decrease in the problem, Gonzales’ book does much to extend that discussion through the frank telling of his story, one that is available for readers in an engaging and heartfelt memoir which makes no bones about the messiness and horror of the subject matter.

Gonzales cites a litany of warning signs which may indicate all is not healthy in the relationship and that there might be a risk of abuse. These include (among other factors) being afraid of one’s partner or afraid to break up, name-calling and being made to feel stupid, being told one cannot do anything right, extreme jealousy, overbearing control, and being cut off from family and previous friendships. “It is the right of everyone to be in a healthy relationship without fear,” contends Gonzales. The author, who holds doctoral degrees in theology and Christian counseling, is an ordained minister and conference speaker. In his counseling practice, Gonzales specializes in the areas of anger management, depression, and grief. After the murder of his little sister, he says he has dedicated his life to being an advocate for domestic violence issues and aims to shed light on this worldwide epidemic.

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